Beyond the Health Benefits of a Plant-Strong Diet – Part 2: Compassion for Animals
By eating a plant-strong diet, you have already improved your health – your cholesterol levels are lower, maybe you have lost some weight, and you are preventing and reversing disease. And last week, you learned how eating a plant-strong diet also positively contributes to a sustainable environment in many profound ways. But it doesn’t just stop there. Eating a plant-strong diet also contributes to compassion for animals – saving them from unnecessary cruelty and suffering.
By not eating any animal products, you are saving over 200 animals’ lives per year! While you are saving your own health with a plant-strong diet, you are also opting not to support the inhumane abuse and exploitation of innocent animals. Instead, you are compassionately contributing to the welfare of animals each time you fill your plate with yummy plant goodness.
Over 63 billion animals died to feed Americans alone in 2011, according to a report based upon industry and government figures. The idyllic family farm with abundant green pastures, a big red barn, and happy animals is a brutal misconception. Today, most animals are raised on large factory farms where they are merely a part of the industrial system and valued only for their monetary worth. These animals are raised in filthy, extremely overcrowded conditions where they are living lives of suffering, fear, and misery.
The meat-producing industry has genetically manipulated farm animals to grow faster, become larger, and produce more than their bodies can endure. Chickens and turkeys grow so unnaturally fast that their legs, lungs, and hearts do not develop enough to support themselves, leading to crippled lives of suffering. According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, if you grew as fast as a factory farm chicken, you would weigh 349 pounds at age two. The animals are fed excessive amounts of hormones and antibiotics in order to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in their disease-ridden environment. In the interest of economic production, the animals’ lives are ended much earlier than they are naturally meant to end. Broiler chickens are slaughtered at around 42 days when they could live 4 years or more, pigs at 6 months when they could live 9 years or more, beef cattle at less than 2 years when they could live 20 years or more, dairy cows at 4 to 6 years when they could live 25 years, and veal calves at only 5 months.
Farm animals are raised in such extreme confinement that they have no room to move or stretch their limbs, let alone lie down. Most hens raised for egg laying live crowded together in wire battery cages, with each bird allotted an area smaller than a standard piece of printer paper. The animals are forced to stand in their own feces, never seeing the sunlight or breathing any fresh air. They are constantly surrounded by filth, disease, and neglect. These conditions cause many animals to become very ill, but instead of addressing the problem, the factory farm industry accounts for this by mixing excessive amounts of antibiotics and drugs into the animals’ food (not to mention that this is the main cause of the growing problem of antibiotic resistant superbugs). Factory farm animals are denied the freedom to roam and live healthily and naturally; the confinement tortures the animals, causing them to exhibit neurotic behaviors.
To diminish the stress and aggression that results from the terrible confinement, chickens and turkeys are violently mutilated – having their beaks and toes sliced off without any painkillers shortly after birth. Pigs are also mutilated to account for the tail-bitting and fighting that results from confined, frustrated, and misery-filled living conditions. As piglets, their tails are cut off, their ears are clipped, their teeth are trimmed down, and male’s testicles are ripped out, all excruciatingly performed without any painkillers. Cattle raised for beef are also mutilated without painkillers by having their testicles ripped out, having their horns removed, and being branded with third-degree burns.
Dairy cows must perpetually be impregnated to continuously produce milk. Their bodies are physically pushed to the limit, while they are psychologically traumatized by having their own baby immediately taken away after birth. The cows are pumped with antibiotics and hormones to produce more milk and then are hooked up to machines that mechanically milk them, robbing them of what is intended to nourish only their own calves. The calves never get to interact with their mothers – the female calves soon begin the impregnation and milking cycle and male calves are quickly sold to veal farms where they are chained to a tiny crate for the entirety of their abruptly short lives. To produce sought-after tender and pale-colored meat, these calves are given no room to move, which promotes muscle atrophy, and fed an iron-deficient milk substitute that induces anemia causing their flesh to be less red.
The animals endure a torturous transportation to their ultimate death at the slaughterhouse. They are packed tightly into trucks without any food, water, or rest, in all weather conditions. Some die along the way and many are completely exhausted by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse. The animals are then roughly handled and tormented by factory workers who prod, kick, and drag them along to the conveyor belt to their inevitable death. Factory farms are concerned with efficiency not ethics. In the interest of time and money, the animals are rushed through the system so quickly, and often by such poorly trained workers, that they are imprecisely and ineffectively stunned, rendering them conscious for the immense and prolonged suffering of the execution process. The animals are hung upside down, often thrashing in attempt to escape, then have their throats slit open and bleed to death. If this hasn’t killed them yet, however, then the animals remain paralyzed but still conscious as they are violently cut apart, have their skin ripped off, and are immersed in scalding-hot water alive.
These atrocities are not limited to land animals. Fish are also violently captured and killed. Huge nets are drug across the ocean floor for hours, capturing fish and any other aquatic animals (including seals, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and birds) who happen to be in the path. All these animals are removed from their natural habitats, die on the boats (fully conscious while they are sliced open, gutted, suffocated, or crushed) and are taken back to land to be sold or, if undesirable, thrown back into the ocean. Farmed fish are raised in shallow, terribly overcrowded, and polluted concrete troughs. They are extremely confined and often disease-ridden, so the aquaculture industry, like the livestock industry, responds by pumping them with antibiotics and chemicals.
There is a horrendous amount of terrible cruelty, abuse, neglect, and exploitation that occurs every single day (38,627 animals are slaughtered in the US per minute). Farm animals are raised in inhumane environments and not given the ability to live their lives naturally behaving as the intelligent, affectionate, and conscious creatures they are. They, as all living beings, rightfully deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. All animals are sentient creatures that can feel emotions such as pain, suffering, fear, and loneliness. They are aware of what is going on around them and they fear for their uncontrollable fate. All animals have an inherent worth – they are not commodities to be exploited by humans.
But every time you sit down to a Rip’s Big Bowl with almond milk, enjoy some quick and tasty Jeff Novick burgers, or celebrate with some sweet potato lasagna, you are saving animals from this torture and misery. Farm animals are no different than the dogs and cats we lovingly keep as companions and, they too, rightfully deserve to be treated with mercy, respect, and compassion. And by eating a plant-strong diet, you are contributing to the welfare of these animals!!
Just remember that our diets have far-reaching implications, well beyond our own personal health. There is a much greater good that you are contributing to each time you eat a plant-strong meal. Eating plants not only makes your body feel great, it also makes your heart and soul feel great. There is no greater pleasure than enjoying a delicious plant-strong meal in the company of good friends – knowing you are feeding every aspect of your life, the environment, and the lives of countless animals with good health and compassion.
Eat well, do good <3
-The College Greens
p.s. If you are interested in learning more about animal welfare, please consider watching this video where Steve-o shares the truth about factory farming (warning, it is graphic).